How to approach Customer Success Plans in 6 easy steps

 Lets start with what is a Success Plan for those who may not know. Success Plans are used by CSMs (Customer Success Managers) to address changing environments, changing personnel and most importantly change in customer expectation. And since change is continuous and a never ending phenomenon so should be the Success Plans. Success Plans are living breathing documents that keep changing. Hence if you are thinking about water fall approach think again. 

I will structure this post in three parts. First lets look at the prep work that must be done prior to creation of a success plan. Its very its very important to first take stock of the current situation. Where is the customer at? What is customer feeling? What is their temperature? 

Next part of prep work is to find out from the customer where they are headed and what are they looking to accomplish with your product. The more you can find out the reasons for their shift in goals the better the chances of the success of the success plan. :)

The last part of the of getting ready is to find out the timeline desired by the customer and just like the new goals desired knowing the reasons is very important. This will help you later in prioritizing resources and milestones.

Now that you have done your home work you are ready for creating the first draft of the success plan. There are five main components of a success plan. They are:

  • Overview
    • This is needed to ensure that you and the reader get a high level view (mission/goals) of what your customer/business unit/department that your main stake holders work for wish to accomplish
  • Objectives
    • State as clearly and concisely the objective of the success plan. Example could be train new hires or deploy a new version. Try to keep this more descriptive and easy to read. This is meant for the business owners of the relationship on the customer side.
  • Challenges
    • Describe all the challenges that are expected during the implementation of the success plan. Do not sugar coat and try to be as through and complete with your list. A missed rad block could derail the entire effort.
  • Benefits/Measure of Success
    • Focus on the KPIs and other measurable goals of the effort. Example: Increase adoption by 20% or increase data/records by 2%.
  • Milestone Plan
    • This is probably the most important and contentious part of the success plan. Customer would like everything done yesterday and you as a CSM have limited resources and so you would like more time. Having a good relationship with your customer can provide you some air cover and much needed understanding and empathy.

Lastly  I would like to cover some misunderstandings and myths that surround success plans. 

Myth #1: Success Plans are only for high value customers

You should certainly spend more time and energy on high value customer segment but that does not give you the freedom to ignore the rest. Since in many cases a success plan can be templatized and with minimal changes a new one created. 

 Myth #2: Success Plan are for internal use only

This is just not so. Success plans are created for the customer just as much as for you and your management. It is a roadmap that both you and your customer would be on together. You as the CSM probably more as the pilot but your customer is not a passenger but as your co-pilot. And hence you want to share the success plan.

Myth #3: Success Plans are hard

Success plans are only as hard as you make them out to be. Do not treat them as PhD thesis or something like that. They help show your intent to your customer and hence it does need to be simple and short. If you are spending days slogging over it, go to talk to your manager or mentor. The role of a good mentor cannot be understated.

To learn more on this topic, view highlights from a class I conducted for CSMs.